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Navy ends support of Japanese search for F-35A stealth fighter, pilot

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A soars over Misawa Air Base, Japan, Nov. 2, 2017.

BRITTANY CHASE/U.S. AIR FORCE

By SETH ROBSON AND HANA KUSUMOTO | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 9, 2019

TOKYO — The U.S. Navy has ended its support of a Japanese search for a lost Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A stealth fighter and its pilot, officials said Thursday.

“A U.S. Navy salvage team aboard a contracted vessel completed its mission supporting search and recovery operations with the Japan Self-Defense Forces after locating debris from the downed JASDF F-35A off the coast of Japan, May 8,” the Navy said in a statement.

The jet went down with its pilot, Maj. Akinori Hosomi, who remains unaccounted for, in the Pacific Ocean approximately 85 miles east of Misawa Air Base, its home field in northeastern Japan, just before 7:30 p.m. April 9. A search team found parts of the fighter’s left and right rudders in the water about two hours later.

Searchers discovered more of the aircraft, including part of its canopy and flight data recorder, sometime after May 3, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters during a news conference Tuesday.

The Navy salvage team had deployed a remotely operated vehicle, CURV 21, to survey the area where debris was found, the service said in its statement. The 6,400-pound vehicle can reach a depth of 20,000 feet in salvage operations, according to a Navy website.

Prior to the salvage team mission, the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem and multiple P-8A Poseidon aircraft joined a Self-Defense Forces search from Apr. 9-17, covering more than 5,000 square nautical miles, the Navy said.

“The U.S. Navy’s thoughts continue to be with the pilot’s family, friends and colleagues,” the Navy said.

The Kaimei, a wide-area seabed research vessel owned by the Japan Agency of Marine-Earth Science and Technology, concluded its search mission Wednesday, a JASDF spokesman said.

Japanese ships and aircraft will continue the search for the missing pilot and the plane’s fuselage, he said.

The search team includes a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force minesweeper, two private salvage boats and JASDF aircraft. No timeline has been set for the search, he said.

robson.seth@stripes.com
Twitter: @SethRobson1

kusumoto.hana@stripes.com
Twitter: @HanaKusumoto

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